"No man is free who works for a living . . . but I am available." (-- Illya Kuryakin, "The Bow-Wow Affair")

These reviews/commentaries on the show's 105 episodes originally appeared in slightly different form on the Yahoo! Groups website Channel_D, from 2008 to 2010. If you're new to MfU fandom, these may give you some idea of the flavor of the series, which is still famous and beloved more than 50 (!) years after its premiere in 1964. Enjoy!

News: Decades Channel is running a "Weekend Binge" of MfU episodes on July 2, 2017. Check the schedule here.

(Except where otherwise noted, images are used with permission of the exhaustive site Lisa's Video Frame Capture Library. Thanks to Lisa for all her work!)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"The Cap and Gown Affair" (ep. 3/30)

At last, here we are at the end of the long and dreaded Season Three, with "U.N.C.L.E. Visits Animal House," or "Spot the Real Dean Wormer!"  It's kind of fun, though its main distinction is that the front cover of Ace novel # 23, and both covers of # 14, are drawn from it.  (I just had to get that in.)

The teaser (as often happened this season) has a serious flavor, with the use of a dummy of Waverly giving us some authentic trickiness.  Things quickly get a bit silly, however, with the students of Blair University apparently so bored, or easily led, that they join in on a protest announced like a meeting of the Spanish Club.  (Oddly, nobody in that '32 Ford roadster seems actually to be speaking into the loudhailer mike.)  Illya looks authentically scruffy, with a two-day growth of beard; he could have passed for a graduate student.  Solo, though, the students would instantly have spotted as The Man.  (To be fair, he's not trying to work undercover.)

Where exactly is Blair University supposed to be?  Here's Illya in a sheep rancher coat and a sweater, Solo in a winter-weight wool suit, and students in Ozzie Nelson sweaters, all in April or May.  It's "in the sticks," the head Thrush says.  Rural New England, maybe?

The girls' dormitory sequence is funny.  Okay, the pillow fight-and-feathers stuff is way too much, and the chase music is silly, but a coed using a book called "A History of Pacifism" to clobber people?  Funny.

It's also a nice touch that Neary the psychology prof is not with Thrush and must be enticed/blackmailed into helping Trumbull and the false Dwight.  Had Neary also been part of the satrap, it would have been a little too much.

The students are protesting U.N.C.L.E., and Waverly's honorary degree, because they've been incited by Thrush; okay.  But why does our head Thrush think that "Dean Dwight" assassinating Waverly will lead to an investigation that will bring U.N.C.L.E. down?  If his plan called for someone identified as a Command agent to kill Dwight (the real one), then certainly.  With Dwight as the assassin, though, you'd expect any investigation to center on Wossamatta U.  (Oops, I mean Blair.)

Things we learn: That Solo, as we always suspected, was named for that Corsican fellow, and that Illya has done some mountain climbing and did so on Mount Whitney.

While it's kind of over the top, the deadly teaching machine fits the setting: academics Neary and Dwight, student Minerva, and intellectual agent Mr. Kuryakin, all forced to take a final exam in which a passing grade means you get to go on breathing.  I love how the academics immediately conclude the machine is wrong when it disagrees with them!  One point:  Each question seemed to take about a minute to deal with.  If our heroes are facing question 336 in Act IV, they must have been stuck in that room, under tremendous tension, for over five hours!  Since Waverly would have arrived around 10 a.m. (or are commencements held in the afternoon?), the false Dwight must have set them up in the death room at something like 4:30 or 5:00 a.m.

Also, wouldn't you think Waverly would be a bit -- heck, a lot! -- more suspicious that Solo and Illya are not there to greet him?

Verdict: A funny script -- not serious, though with some serious moments; the head Thrush's masquerading (a la "Mission: Impossible") as Dean Dwight and Trumbull's threatening of psych prof Neary are worthy of better treatment.

Memorable Lines:
Solo (as they flee the Thrush thugs): "In there."
Illya: "That's the girls' dorm."
Solo: "Is that bad?"

Solo (as the negligee-clad coeds fail to react to his and Illya's arrival in the dorm): "When I was in college, they used to scream."

Dean Dwight: "I think I am on the nerve of a vergous breakdown!"

Teaching Machine: "In what year did Napoleon Bonaparte die?  Answer A: 1823; Answer B: 1821."
Illya: "Come on, Napoleon.  You should know that."
Solo: "I was named for him; I wasn't at his funeral."


Anonymous said...

Another small highlight for me: when Illya is shown a placard reading "Down with UNCLE", his only response is to take a paintbrush an add the appropriate dots after each letter in the acronym U.N.C.L.E.

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